Mat 19:3 And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Mat 19:4 And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”,
Mat 19:5 and said, For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh?
Mat 19:6 Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.
Mat 19:7 They said to Him, Why did Moses then command to give a bill of divorce and to put her away?
Mat 19:8 He said to them, Because of your hard-heartedness Moses allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so.
Mat 19:9 And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery.
Mat 19:10 His disciples said to Him, If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not good to marry.
Mat 19:11 But He said to them, Not all receive this word, except those to whom it is given.
In the days that Jesus spoke these words divorce was a major social injustice, resulting in many a woman ending up in the gutter, becoming either a beggar or a prostitute. For the husband it was easy. He could give her a letter of divorce and put her on the street. But there were no laws protecting the woman. And there was little hope for such a woman of ever finding a job. Her family would not always want her back, as she was considered just an additional burden. Women were not allowed in educational institutions so there was no way that she could have learned a trade or anything like that. A woman, like a slave, was merely one of a man’s possessions. Suffer the poor woman that could not bear her husband a child….What Jesus says here was quite revolutionary for that particular time. Proving Moses wrong was considered almost equal to blasphemy and one can imagine that Jesus’ exposure of this injustice was met with little enthusiasm from the predominantly male-orientated society in which He found Himself. Small wonder that Jesus had many female friends. He was the only man who would defend the woman caught in adultery against her male-accusers:(John 8:3-11).
And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery. And standing her in the midst,
Joh 8:4 they said to Him, Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Joh 8:5 Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say?
Joh 8:6 They said this, tempting Him so that they might have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, not appearing to hear.
Joh 8:7 But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.
Joh 8:8 And again bending down, He wrote on the ground.
Joh 8:9 And hearing, and being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Joh 8:10 And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?
Joh 8:11 And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.
A thought that came to me the other day is that it is actually clear from this account exactly what Jesus must have written on the ground: It was the sins of the accusers and it must have been in some amount of detail. For fear of exposure they did not start throwing the stones, as they most certainly had intended to do.
Another thought that came to me after this is that whenever we sin, we are throwing a stone at God. It is this very same situation in reverse. Yet He took the punishment from us, all the thorns and whips that we threw at Him. And the cross. What a horrible way to die. We were the ones who killed Him.
Jesus makes no mistake when He exposes the root cause of the problem on hand: “It was not this way from the beginning” (vs. 8), the “beginning” meaning Paradise off course. Very wisely He chooses to quote Gen 2:24 (vs. 5) to illustrate the argument. One flesh made up of two (equal) parts. That was indeed how it was in the Garden of Eden. It was only after man had sinned that we see the balance of equality being disturbed by a curse of God, positioning the man to “rule” over the woman. (See Gen 3:16). When referring to this passage, many of the subsequent writers of the Bible have thought that this meant that the husband must be the boss of his family and that a man must always be the head of a church. For some strange reason people thought that this particular curse could not be broken. A typical example of this can be found in 1 Tim 2:14 where the apostle Paul argues that a woman may not teach in the church because it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam.
But Jesus clearly wants marriage restored to how it was in the beginning, that is: before the fall of man! (vs. 8). He knew exactly what had happened as a result of sin. (Gen 3:16-19). But He also knew that He Himself would become sin for us so that we could be free of all curses that had resulted from sin (e.g. Gal 3:13, Deut. 21:23). This we may claim, every time. That is His promise to us – that is why we believe in Him. We are free from the curse of sin! We do not have to accept anything that happened as a result of sin; not even death. (John 10:28).
So, in effect, Jesus was indeed the first man who stood up for the rights of women. No wonder that the women of those days liked to listen to Him. And that He was at home with women. They remained loyal to Him, even after His death, and this is most probably the reason why they got to see Him first after His resurrection. But mankind still took more than nineteen centuries to lay claim to the equality of male and female. It was only fairly recently that most churches have adopted the principle of equality for the sexes. Why did it take us so long? It’s a long story. Looking back now, one could argue that most of the confusion was caused by the otherwise very honest – and very truthful apostle Paul. I think we must forgive him this oversight. One must not forget that there is a big cultural difference between the people then and modern man. Also, traditions are not easily broken and Paul was strongly influenced by the Jewish traditions.
Anyway, let us forget about the old arguments. There is light in the tunnel at last. I cannot help but getting excited whenever I notice Jesus’ teachings finally becoming the accepted norm.